10.23.2009

My Books of the Summer: The Spartacus War and The Fall of the West

They told me to go to rehab, so I said "yes, yes, yes" .... In July I was called as a witness in a legal case, but had to excuse myself on health grounds, and the fact that I was being treated for PTSD became the worst kept secret in archaeology ... so I figure I might as well be open about it. It's kinda a bummer, but I spent the summer playing with a dog and ignoring the world, which helped. And I'm mostly okay now, as long as people are gentle with me and don't threaten me ...

Unfortunately just before I went 'away' ... I was sent two brilliant books to review, and failed to blog much about either of them. I hope to put that right soon, but quickly wanted to mention the two books that kept me going thorough the summer (it says a lot that I ignored the world, but not these histories).

I think that Adrian Goldsworthy is one of the best historians working an the ancient world at the moment. As well as the new FTC disclaimer where I mention that these two books were both sent to my by their publishers for free, I should also mention that Adrian is a very good friend and one of the nicest people on earth.

In this book Adrian covers the centuries in which the West fell, first disintegrating into internecine infighting, and then being over-run by northern 'barbarians'. He covers complex material in a way that makes it easy to understand, and made me want to know more. I was fascinated by some of the women - Julia Domna, Zenobia - and loved the little-seen illustrations of later Roman military uniforms and equipment.

The Fall Of The West: The Death Of The Roman Superpower: The Long, Slow Death of the Roman Superpower by Adrian Goldsworthy - Amazon.co.uk

How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower by Adrian Goldsworthy - Amazon.com

I'm also very excited about Adrian's next book, a joint biography of Anthony and Cleopatra. He's been telling me about his new research every time we meet, I'm very excited about it and can't wait until next summer. Oh, and I'm also tempted to try the pearl experiment, to see how Cleopatra managed to disolve pearls in wine-vinegar ....

If Adrian's book covers a mass of material in one volume, then Prof Strauss' biography of Spartacus does the opposite - it concentrates on the material about this one man, to create a fascinating portrait of both him and his period. Spartacus is well know to all from the Hollywood movie, but Strauss blows away the cliches to reveal the 'real' man. It helps that he is also one of the leading ancient historians, as books with little primary evidence can otherwise be frustrating - too many people try to expand the little information we have about Boudicca into a book ...

I hope to blog more about both books in the near future, but meanwhile highly recommend both if you're looking for something to read, or for the perfect gift for a Classicist or historian.


The Spartacus War: The Revolt of the Gladiators - Amazon.co.uk

The Spartacus War - Amazon.com

4 comments:

  1. Has anyone done a biography/study of Q Sertorius?

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  2. There's a chapter on Sertorius in Goldsworthy's "In the Name of Rome" but it's only about fifteen pages long so I guess that doesn't really count.

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  3. I'm somewhat at a loss how Adrian Murdoch got into this post...? Does he have anything to do with Adrian Goldsworthy, beyond first names and professions?

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  4. Adrian Murdoch / Adrian Goldsworthy has been corrected - thank you! The simply truth is that they are both great friends, and I had been answering emails from both of them ... and it was a typo!

    Adrian G's In The Name of Rome, as has been pointed out, has a good short study of Sertorius. I also glanced at a book on him and the Sertorians in Spain in the library a few months ago, but cannot find the exact reference. Other studies include:

    http://catalogue.ulrls.lon.ac.uk/search~S7?/dsertorius/dsertorius/1%2C4%2C8%2CB/frameset&FF=dsertorius+d+++72+b+c&2%2C%2C3

    http://catalogue.ulrls.lon.ac.uk/search~S7?/dsertorius/dsertorius/1%2C4%2C8%2CB/frameset&FF=dsertorius+d+++72+b+c+military+leadership&1%2C1%2C

    There are some old books and a few dissertations, but little recent:
    http://catalogue.ulrls.lon.ac.uk/search~S7/?searchtype=d&searcharg=sertorius&searchscope=7&SORT=D&extended=0&SUBMIT=Search&searchlimits=&searchorigarg=tsertorians

    JSTOR has some articles that cover him - http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?hl=en&q=sertorius&as_ylo=2001&as_vis=0 - but ... guess that might make a nice dissertation for a doctorate?

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